Because some of my work is on police transformation, trust building, and accountability, every time I turn around, somebody else is inviting me to a “citizen’s academy”, asking me to do a police “simulator” so I can better “understand the police perspective,” which is something that as a Christian pastor who believes every person is made in the image of God, I try desperately to do. Meanwhile, as people line up to attend these “citizens academies, black bodies, also made in the image of God, black citizens, supposedly protected under the law, are steadily being used essentially as target practice without even as much of a murder or manslaughter conviction to show for it all across the country. So, basically the message is clear: if you’re a cop, it’s open season on black and brown people all across America...
So right now in the wake of the Philando Castille verdict, the killing of Charlena Lyles and the brutal beating of Nabra Hassanen (followed by the burning of a memorial built in her honor), I’m thinking that maybe the police do need a simulator: a black body living under the constant threat of police violence “simulator.” Maybe what they need is a driving while black “simulator” or a walking while black “simulator” or a standing while black “simulator” or a walking through the airport as a tennis celebrity when you get attacked “simulator,” or a lying on the ground with your hands up while you try to convince an officer that the man you’re in the street with is your patient but you get shot anyway “simulator.”
I don’t know, maybe the police need a getting shot while you are running away and the officer plants evidence and still gets off “simulator.” Maybe they need a sitting in the car with your fiancee and your baby girl, calmly telling a trigger happy cop that you are a law abiding citizen and get seven bullets shot into your car “simulator”. Or maybe if we could just get a being a twelve year old playing with a toy on a swing and I get shot in 3 seconds “simulator”...or a boyfriend and girlfriend sleeping in a car minding their own business and are murdered under a barrage of 20 bullets “simulator.” Maybe we should make a standing on the roadside trying to flag the police down for help but you get shot anyway “simulator”...or an I’m calling the police for help when they know I have a mental illness but they beat and kick me to death “simulator”. Or, I’ve got one, maybe a calling the police for help when you’ve got a mental illness and the police know your history but kill you dead in front of your kids even though you’re pregnant “simulator”. Oh, I’ve got it. Maybe what they need is an even though we have dashcams, cell phone cams, Facebook live, and body cams we still have to live with the constant threat of violence without the ability to ever say “I feared for my life”, shoot someone dead and walk free “simulator.”
But life as a black man, woman, or child in America is not a simulation is it? Life as a gay or trans person, Muslim, Sikh, Asian, mentally ill or unhoused person is not a simulation is it? No. It’s real life for so, so many.
Unlike the police, who have the full weight, power and sympathy of the state on their side, “I feared for my life” is the generational trauma that is etched in our bones - bones which have endured centuries of unfathomable terror and pain. The whole, “I feared for my life” at the mere sight of a black man is the nightmare that we’re still trying to wake up from.
Yet, brown officers, black officers, Asian officers, male officers, Native American officers, female officers, LGBTQ officers, Muslim officers, Sikh officers, Buddhist officers, Christian officers, atheist officers, Irish officers, Italian officers, WASP officers all manage to come through the same “diversity” trainings, the same “implicit bias” trainings, and somehow we keep ending up with the same results. Yet by and large, statistically speaking, most of them get to go home to their families (with the tragic exceptions of officer suicides, domestic violence, and substance abuse which is a huge issue quiet as it’s kept) while our families are constantly being ripped apart by state sanctioned violence. But you all want me to do a “simulation”? We just want you to stop killing us. We don’t need a simulation for that. Just stop killing us.